Guest Blog by Mark Conner of Drivesafely.info
What does a teen driver with ADHD have in common with an adult driver with ADHD? Distractibility and impulsivity. Though this guest blog was written about teen drivers with ADHD, these suggestions apply for adults with ADHD, too. – dr
If your teen has ADHD, they are, statistically, at a greater risk of mishaps on the road. Your teen is more likely to get speeding tickets and other traffic violations. They are also more likely to be involved in an accident. ADHD causes distractibility, impulsivity, and makes it harder for teens to pay attention to what’s happening on the road. These facts may sound scary, but the truth is, with the proper guidance, your teen driver can learn to be safer on the road. Here are some tips.
Make car rules that limit distractions
Whatever they do, the bottom line is that 100% of their attention must be focused on driving the car at all times. There’s no wiggle room here. That’s the message you must give your teen. First, you should institute a no friend or maybe a single friend rule. Having multiple teenage passengers in a car is a major distraction for new drivers, and this is magnified if the driver has ADHD.
You should also make a rule concerning four-legged passengers. Especially while your child is learning, it’s best that they leave their dog at home. That said, if doing so is unavoidable, for example, if your child has a service dog, then, make sure the animal can be safely secured in the back seat using a dog seat belt.
Next, you should discuss phone use. Whether your teen is using their phone to call you, change the music, or find a new location on GPS, you should mandate that they pull over first. “Even if your teenager is not planning on using the phone, the call of the text message noise can be too tempting to avoid. The phone should be kept on vibrate and in the glove compartment while she’s on the road,” suggests Childmind.org.
Even taking such actions as setting volume limits for music and having rules against driving in inclement weather can help your teen with ADHD be safer on the road.
You should also get your teen in the habit of leaving earlier than they think they need to. Giving yourself enough “buffer” time can help you focus on the driving task at hand and reduce the urge to speed or drive in a reckless manner.
“Plan trips ahead, and leave yourself plenty of time. Organizing your trip beforehand allows you to focus on the task of driving, rather than on directions. In addition, if you don’t get lost, you’re less likely to be in a rush which can lead to speeding or running red lights,” notes AttitudeMag.com.
Focus on lowering your teen’s stress level
Teens that focus on treating and managing their ADHD at home are more successful in all parts of life – and this includes driving. Learning how to focus, manage responsibilities, and deal with stressful situations off the road will make them better at dealing with them on the road. This is why it’s crucial that your teen is not under an overwhelming amount of stress due to school, work, sports, or other extracurricular activities.
You may want to make a “no driving before homework is done” rule in the evenings. If your child is stressed out about falling behind at school, consider tutoring. If your teen is rushing around trying to make it to various after school activities, sports practices, and other commitments, maybe think about streamlining their extracurriculars and getting rid of one or more of their obligations.
Let ADHD medication help
“Most young drivers with ADHD should be taking medication … many studies have found that stimulants that help focus attention, like Ritalin and Adderall, can reduce the risk of accidents … consider extended-release formulations that remain effective at night, when accidents are most common,” says the New York Times.
Make sure your teen is in the right state of mind to drive safely. It’s best to start teaching them early on (as young as 14), as teens with ADHD will likely take longer to master each concept associated with safe driving. If properly taught, there’s no reason a teen with ADHD can’t become a safe, considerate driver.